tv ABC World News Tonight With David Muir ABC February 15, 2018 5:30pm-6:00pm PST
tonight, breaking developments in the deadly school rampage here in florida. we have new and searing images from inside the school. 17 people killed. the eruption of gunfire, firing into one classroom after another. the suspect armed with an ar-15, triggering the fire alarm. and then targeting victims as they tried to escape. >> everyone on the floor. on the floor. >> terrified students hiding, rescued by s.w.a.t. teams. the suspect stopping at a walmart, at subway, at mcdonald's after the rampage. and tonight, the officer who found him describing the moment. the suspect, nikolas cruz, in court today. what authorities now reveal. what he allegedly told them. as we also learn more about his past. adopted, he lost the father who adopted him. then his mother dying from the flu this november. and the warning signs from neighbors. the names and the faces of
the victims revealed tonight. the hero teachers and the football coach. sacrificing their lives to shield their students from the gunfire. and our interview tonight with the survivors. the children, the students here seeing the gunman in the hallway, hiding in silence in closets. and president trump tonight, addressing the nation. what he says about mental health and the question he did not answer about guns. good evening on this thursday night. and we are here in florida, where a dark and troubling portrait has now emerged about the horror that played out here a little more than 24 hours ago. you can see the massive presence here behind me, authorities are still here on the scene of this school, the buildings from that large campus, right behind those trucks here behind us, where children piled into closets, hiding in silence, texting their parents. so many of the students telling me today that they told their
parents they thought they were going to die. tonight here, new video from inside the school, students crying as their wounded classmates are carried out by police. then escaping the building themselves. and, of course, the nation now seeing those images, the students running for their lives. they told me they'd been taught what a code red is, an active shooter. then they heard those words. the suspect trying to blend in with the students, dropping his ar-15, then leaving the school. and tonight, right here, the officer who found him. 19-year-old nikolas cruz was in court today. what he has now allegedly told police. and for the first time, we are seeing the faces of the victims. 14 of them students, and three adult heroes. a teacher and two coaches. abc's victor oquendo with the new timeline tonight. the plot that unfolded here at the school and the chilling images from inside. and we should note, they are difficult to watch. >> holy -- >> reporter: that steady stream of gunfire breaking out at 2:21 p.m. >> oh, my god.
>> reporter: a school employee immediately calling a code red. students were supposed to be going home. instead, some would stay huddled together on lockdown for hours. >> shh. >> reporter: authorities tonight say nikolas cruz has confessed to being the gunman, and the former student arrived in an uber, carrying an ar-15 rifle inside a soft black case. >> the suspect exited the stairwell, pulled the rifle out of the case. >> reporter: then, he began shooting into at least five different classrooms on two floors. >> he went from the third floor to the second floor. they're monitoring him on camera. >> reporter: a federal official says the suspect is believed to have triggered a fire alarm, adding to the chaos. >> the fire alarm got pulled and kids were evacuating. i heard five pops. >> reporter: many finding shelter wherever they could, hiding under desks, barricaded in classrooms. >> so, right now, we're in school, an active shooter. it's not a drill. i heard one gunshot. we thought it was a drill initially, but it's not. >> reporter: first responders on the scene, desperately trying to track down the suspect.
nearly an hour after the first shots rang out, some students still hunkered down. >> we still believe that the person has been neutralized, but we're still currently on lockdown. >> reporter: but the shooter managing to slip out of the school with evacuating students. >> he dropped his rifle and backpack, ran down the stairs. >> white male, burgundy shirt, wearing a black hat and either long black pants or shorts. he mixed in with a group of students that were running westbound. >> reporter: with the suspect on the loose, a tense scene, as s.w.a.t. teams clear the building. students told to put their hands over their heads. first responders breaking glass to get into one locked classroom. >> get down. everyone on the floor. >> reporter: some students begging for help. >> please help us. please help us. please help us. >> reporter: as the wounded are carried away. >> as fast as they're taken out of the environment, we get them to the hospital. >> put your hands up. >> everybody has to, like, put
their hands up. >> reporter: one by one, each student led from the horrifying scene. >> let's go. stop looking. keep walking. keep walking. >> reporter: the evacuation still under way when police tracked down the suspect in a neighboring town, wearing that burgundy shirt. >> confirmed. nikolas cruz is in custody. >> reporter: more than 90 minutes after the rampage started, the sheriff announcing the shooter was in custody. >> and victor oquendo joins us tonight from outside the high school. and victor, we're learning more tonight about how the suspect managed to escape that school without getting caught? >> reporter: david, after allegedly shooting his last victim, police say the suspect ran to a stairwell on the third floor. from there, he dropped his rifle, he dropped his bag. he made his way down the stairs and to the tennis courts. from there, david, he was able to blend in with the other students. >> victor oquendo leading us off again tonight. victor, thank you. that suspect coming into sharper focus tonight. 19-year-old nikolas cruz, now charged with 17 counts of premeditated murder. tonight, what we're now learning about his childhood. he was adopted. he then lost that father as a boy. then the mother who adopted him
dying of the flu just months ago. and his troubling posts on social media. were many signs missed? abc's tom llamas at the jail here in ft. lauderdale, where cruz is being held. >> reporter: today, the 19-year-old accused of hunting down and killing 17 people at his former high school led into court in shackles. >> are you nikolas jacob cruz? >> yes, ma'am. >> let's go! >> reporter: authorities now retracing his steps in the aftermath of the rampage. the alleged gunman on the run for about an hour. police say cruz stopped by a local walmart and a subway, where he bought a drink. he then stopped into this mcdonald's. he was finally spotted by michael leonard, a police officer from a nearby city. officer leonard had decided to join the search and started driving down a back road when he spotted someone who fit the suspect's description. maroon shirt, black boots. >> he looked like a typical high school student. and for a quick moment, i
thought, could this be the person? is this who i need to stop? >> reporter: you see cruz here taken down and handcuffed. and tonight, authorities scouring his social media accounts, searching for clues and a possible motive. >> some of the things that have come to mind are very, very disturbing. >> reporter: sources tell abc news this was cruz's instagram account. this photo shows him holding a pistol. in another, he's holding a large knife. investigators now piecing together the suspect's background. we know he was adopted as a baby. but his adoptive father died when he was just 4 years old. cruz, raised by a single mother. but late last year, she died, as well, unexpectedly, of the flu. cruz then went to live with the family of a friend. the family's lawyer tells us he at one point had been in therapy. cruz brought his ar-15 assault rifle with him. the family's lawyer telling us he kept it locked in a gun safe. this is the neighborhood where the alleged shooter grew up. it's a nice neighborhood, the homes are big, the lawns are well-maintained. neighbors say it's such a normal
place, that someone like nikolas cruz really stood out. >> aggressive, crazy, weird, psycho. >> reporter: brody speno spent nearly a decade a few doors down from cruz. he remembers cruz having a violent side, even at a young age. >> he, like, cornered a squirrel and was, like, sending rocks at it, trying to kill it. it was just weird. >> reporter: former classmates also paint a twisted picture. they say cruz was obsessed with guns and was disciplined for bringing bullet casings to school. >> about a year ago, i saw him upset and i was like, what's up with you? and he's like, i swear to god, i'll shoot up this school. >> reporter: he was ultimately expelled. and there were other signs of trouble. in september, video blogger ben bennight saw a disturbing comment on his youtube page. a commenter with the name nikolas cruz posting, "i'm going to be a professional school shooter." >> i found that to be odd and disturbing, so, i forwarded that screenshot to the fbi. >> reporter: the fbi tonight saying they tried, but could not track down who that user was. >> and tom llamas joins us tonight from outside the jail where nikolas cruz is being
held. and tom, we have heard about his difficult childhood, you reported there on neighbors and classmates talking about his fascination with guns. disciplined in school, ultimately expelled. people watching around the country tonight are going to say there were a lot of warning signs here. >> reporter: so many red flags, david. and tonight, his mental state is of major concern. his legal team tells us he's on suicide watch here at the jail. and his lawyers also telling us that he has struggled with mental illness throughout his life and had significant trauma when his mother recently passed away. david? tom llamas with us tonight. thank you. we're going to turn next here to the survivors. a short time ago, i sat down with a group of brave students here, describing seeing the gunman in the hallway. trying to find a classroom to hide in. and in so many cases, the doors were already locked. people. >> reporter: already huddled on the inside. when they did make it to a classroom, so many hiding in the closet. telling me about the text messages they sent their parents.
what was the first sign that you knew something was going wrong? >> it was the second fire drill of the day. >> yeah. >> and we don't have two fire drills, like, ever. >> we had one earlier in the day. >> reporter: so, you had gone outside the building because of the alarm. >> yeah. >> reporter: which was the second of the day. >> yeah. >> reporter: and then you run back into the building. >> yeah, we heard gunshots. and they told us to run back. we locked the door. we took in some kids that weren't in our class and we hid in a corner. lights were off, like, we practiced. >> reporter: as you were huddled in the corner of that room, what were you all doing? >> staying silent. texting our parents. yeah. >> reporter: what were you texting them? >> saying that we're on lockdown and, like, i love them. >> reporter: i can only imagine what the texts back were. did your parents text you back? >> uh-huh. >> reporter: what did they say? >> stay safe. >> reporter: and that's when you knew the whole thing was real. jonathan blank was in a classroom on the first floor. the gunman began to fire into the room. you can see his shoes there in
this video captured during the chaos. >> i went under a desk. we stayed there, i was laying down. four kids in my class, they got shot. two of them, i believe, passed away. i saw them on the ground after they were shot, there was blood everywhere. and it was just horrible. >> reporter: and that video that we now have all seen, you're actually -- you can see your shoes, right? >> yes. i was laying down, trying to just get as far away from the door, like, to hide, as possible. and just take cover. we didn't know what was going on. kids were bleeding out everywhere and we didn't know what to do with them. and finally, the cops, we hear them screaming. we had to put our hands up. they came in with assault rifles, pointing them to make sure that no one -- the shooter wasn't in our class. and they directed us to line up and they said, just make a right
out of this class and run as fast as you can to the street and get away. and as i was making the right turn out of the class, i saw two kids laying in the middle of the hallway -- dead. they were just dead. >> reporter: two more kids. >> yes. two kids that just weren't in my class. >> reporter: mackenzie hill had gone to a restroom on the second floor, leaving behind her twin sister in the classroom. mackenzie would see the gunman down the hall. she had no choice but to run into another room. she sent a text to her twin. >> so, when we get in the classroom, we were just sitting down, i had contact with my sister, and then -- >> reporter: she would only learn later that her twin had survived. jaden blair, a junior, told us about hiding in a classroom closet. she texted her mom. >> i just said, mom, i love you so much, i think i'm going to
die. >> reporter: how many of you know someone who did not get out alive? really? so, all of you knew someone. >> we had a friend, not until, like, 2:00 a.m. last night, that it was confirmed. >> reporter: she then shows me a picture of her friend joaquin. and then, the other students begin pulling out their phones, the pictures of the friends they lost. jonathan shows me nick dworet. >> this is my classmate nick. he was actually going to -- he was on the national team for swimming. he committed to the university of indianapolis a couple, like, two weeks before this happened. great classmate, great person, always so nice. >> reporter: how terrifying was the whole thing? >> it was the most -- the scariest moment of my life. i've never experienced anything like that. >> reporter: and i'm sure you think now about all the other shootings, too, in this country. >> yeah, you never think it will happen to you, and, like, to
your school, until it really does, and it just doesn't feel real. >> and our entire team will not forget that moment inside that house when we asked, how many of you know someone who was lost? they all raised their hand, and then began pulling out their phones with pictures of the friends they won't see again. for the fourth time since his inauguration, president trump addressing the nation about a mass shooting. something his predecessor had to do often, as well. today, president trump sending his condolences to the families and promising to focus on mental health, but he did not answer questions about guns. here's abc's senior white house correspondent cecilia vega. >> reporter: president trump today speaking directly to those grieving families in parkland, florida. >> your suffering is our burden, also. >> reporter: calling the shooter mentally disturbed, his message was clear. >> we are committed to working with state and local leaders to help secure our schools and tackle the difficult issue of mental health. >> reporter: but shortly after taking office, president trump
blocked an obama-era rule that made it tougher for the mentally ill to obtain guns. today, no mention of gun control. >> will you do something about guns? >> reporter: immediately after past shootings, the president had said it was too soon to discuss gun control. but today, in that grief-stricken community, many saying now is the time. lori alhadeff's 14-year-old daughter, alyssa, is among the dead. >> president trump, you say, what can you do? you can stop the guns from getting into these children's hands. >> reporter: the broward county schools superintendent agrees. >> our students are asking for that conversation. >> reporter: one of those students, sarah chadwick, tweeted directly at the president. "i don't want your condolences. prayers won't fix this, but gun criminal control will prevent it from happening again." and despite the gut-wrenching calls for action, gun control seems to be a nonstarter for republicans here in washington. florida's marco rubio saying
today, quote, we can pass laws, there are plenty of ideas, but these laws wouldn't solve the problem. here at the white house tonight, david, they are planning for a presidential visit to parkland, perhaps as soon as this weekend. >> cecilia vega live at the white house. cecilia, thank you. and of course, behind that political debate, the families of the 17 people killed here, the 15 injured. some of them fighting for their lives at this hour. and as this political battle now begins in washington, we thought it was important tonight to show you the faces of those lost here. the names of those lost beginning to emerge tonight. five students in their first year of high school. luke hoyer, cara loughran and alyssa alhadeff, a soccer player. gina montalto's mother calling her a "smart, loving, caring and strong girl who brightened any room she entered. she will be missed by our family also lost, martin duque. his older brother saying, "words cannot describe my pain. you'll be missed, buddy." jamime guttenberg's father
writing on facebook, "we lost our daughter and my son lost his sister. i am broken. hugs to all and hold your children tight." joaquin oliver just became a u.s. citizen a year ago. and alex schachter, a member of the marching band here. seniors meadow pollack and nick dworet were making plans for college. and tonight, remembering the teachers, the staff who put their students first. >> those heroes gave their lives for our kids. and probably helped prevent this from being a worse tragedy than it is today. >> reporter: scott beigel, who taught geography. shot in the doorway as he rushed his students into the classroom. and beloved athletic director chris hixon, running to the scene to help others to safety. and then, there's assistant football coach aaron feis. >> i heard the shots and then i saw the shooter run after mr. feis. and i saw mr. feis get shot. >> reporter: the coach using his body to shield students from the shooter. >> he was killed tragically, inhumanely. he did it protecting others, you can guarantee that, because that's who aaron feis was. >> so many of the kids here
telling me about that hero coach today. there is still much more ahead on this special edition of "world news tonight." tracking the weapon, the assault rifle legally purchased. why did the suspect's background not raise any red flags? and also, the other news tonight. the 4-year-old girl kidnapped from home, found 400 miles away. the news coming in tonight. also, the headline involving steve bannon. we'll tell you what we've learned. and back here in parkland, florida, the vigil for the victims. and a message from this community for everyone watching tonight.
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or commission designated cruz as mentally unfit. so, it appears he fell through the cracks, david. >> pierre thomas will stay on this tonight. when we come back, the other news. that 4-year-old who was kidnapped, found 400 miles away. the news coming in. but he hasoke up wwork to do.in. so he took aleve. if he'd taken tylenol, he'd be stopping for more pills right now. only aleve has the strength to stop tough pain for up to 12 hours with just one pill. aleve. all day strong.
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and finally tonight, from here in florida, a promise to stay on this story. so many of those brave students we met today who survived the school shooting here asking us to continue to ask the questions after they showed me images of the friends they lost here, hoping that the country will not only send condolences and prayers, but will help them here and other communities protect themselves, too. i'm david muir. we leave you tonight with the vigil right here in parkland. i hope to see you tomorrow night. good night. kids and a coach. they are among the victims of one of the worst school shootings in american history.
tonight we're telling their stories. >> i've heard a young man crying for his mother, dying. >> survivors come to grips with what they witnessed, including moments of heroism. and as a nation, we look at what could have caused this. the hot button issues that we've addressed before. >> announcer: live where you live. this is abc 7 news. he's a broken human being. he's a broken child. >> disbelief and frustration. one day later, a florida community and a nation struggling to understand why a gunman would commit a massacre at a high school. good evening, thanks for joining us. i'm kristen sze.sze.sze.sze. >> i'm dan ashley. investigators answered some questions about the gunman, 19-year-old nikolas cruz. >> cruz made his first court appearance this morning, charged with 17 counts of premeditated
murder. a judge denied him bail. investigators say cruz took an uber to the school and went to an mcdonald's before he was arrested. >> a white nationalist group today said cruz had done paramilitary drills with the organization. tonight, thousands attended a vigil at parkland, florida, just one of a dozen or so planned to honor the victims. >> the victims include 14-year-old alex schachter who won a state championship for playing trombone in the school marching band last year. his dad called him a sweetheart of a kid. >> 14-year-old alaina petty was a church volunteer who helped the victims of hurricane irma last year. >> 15-year-old luke hoyer was described by his cousin as an amazing individual with a contagious smile. >> other students among the victims, 18-year-old meadow pollack, 17-year-old helena ramsey, 15-year-old peter wang, and